You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Playback: Willem Dafoe on ‘The Florida Project’ and a Return to Superhero Movies in ‘Aquaman’

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

Willem Dafoe is making waves for his performance in Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” the critically-acclaimed story of a community of extended-stay motel guests in Central Florida. He plays the kind-hearted property manager Bobby in the film, and it’s a touching, tender portrayal that could net him his third Oscar nomination to date (after supporting bids for “Platoon” and “Shadow of the Vampire”).

In the film, Dafoe finds himself the central node, the recognizable face in a sea of non- and new actors. It was a varied ensemble experience featuring precocious children and even performers cast off Instagram.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“Even in an industry movie, a studio film, sometimes you’re working with people from very different backgrounds and trainings,” Dafoe says. “I’m always struck that in the profession of acting, particularly for Americans, there isn’t a uniformity of training or methodology. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact I think mixing it up helps because then with each project you really have to find what your process is and you also have to find out how to fit in with everybody and make the world. So it doesn’t become about you, it becomes about the thing you’re making, and that frees you.”

Funnily enough, to contrast with the unknown ensemble of “The Florida Project,” later this year Dafoe is starring alongside some of the biggest stars in the world, from Judi Dench to Johnny Depp, in Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

“The problems are kind of the same,” Dafoe says with a laugh. “They may be movie stars but they come from different places, in a funny way. There’s no uniformity to the experience.”

He also recently finished his contribution to James Wan’s “Aquaman,” a major part of DC’s bid to compete with Marvel on screen. Dafoe has a unique perspective on the modern landscape of superhero films: He was there at the start, in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man.”

“James Wan and Sam Raimi are both personal filmmakers,” Dafoe says. “They really have a strong personal stamp. They both have a good sense of play. They come from the handmade world and they come from the horror world, and the beautiful thing about horror movies is the film language is very rich, because you can get away with it. There’s a fantastical quality but you can also make a popular movie because it’s a very accessible genre.”

For more, including discussion of highlights from his 30-year career, from “Platoon” to “Finding Nemo,” listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

Willem Dafoe Variety Portrait by Dan Doperalski
CREDIT: Dan Doperalski for Variety

More Film

  • Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With

    Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With $200 Million Fund

    Veteran film industry executive Krysanne Katsoolis has launched Viewpark, which will finance, package and release high-end film and TV content. Viewpark has partnered with former Wall Street executive Keith Price’s Obsidian Asset Management to create a multi-million dollar fund for the production and marketing of its slate, Katsoolis told Variety. Obsidian, based in London and [...]

  • Elle FanningChopard Trophee dinner, 72nd Cannes

    Elle Fanning Faints at Cannes Dinner Party

    Elle Fanning, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, had a brief scare Monday night when she fainted at the Chopard Trophee dinner. Festival director Thierry Fremaux had just introduced actor Francois Civil onstage when Fanning, star of “The Beguiled” and “Maleficent,” collapsed and fell off her chair nearby. Fanning was sitting at a table [...]

  • 'Frankie' Review: Ira Sachs' American Version

    Cannes Film Review: 'Frankie'

    As a filmmaker, Ira Sachs, the director of “Love Is Strange,” “Little Men,” and (his masterpiece) “Keep the Lights On,” is like a flower that keeps sprouting new tendrils, growing ever more beautiful and complicated and delicate. His new movie, “Frankie,” may the closest that anyone has come to making an American version of an [...]

  • AMC theater

    AMC Stubs A-List Becomes No. 1 Movie Subscription Service

    AMC Theatres’ Stubs A-List program, which allows customers to see three movies a week for $19.95 a month, has hit 800,000 subscribers. That figure is well ahead of the original projection, announced last June, for 500,000 subscribers by the end of its first year. According to AMC, the program is now the No. 1 moviegoing [...]

  • Millie Bobby Brown on Her Feature

    Millie Bobby Brown Calls Her Film Debut in 'Godzilla' 'Kind of Unreal'

    Millie Bobby Brown is no stranger to stardom thanks to “Stranger Things,” but she still can’t believe she’s making her feature film debut in the monster reboot “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” “It’s kind of unreal,” Brown told Variety at the premiere. “I’m like, ‘What is happening right now?’ It’s so bizarre and unreal, and [...]

  • Dakota Johnson Tracee Ellis Ross

    Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross Co-Starring in Comedy 'Covers'

    Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross will co-star in “Covers,” a comedy set in the music scene in Hollywood. “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra is helming from a screenplay by Flora Greeson. Focus Features is partnering with Working Title Films on the movie. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Alexandra Loewy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content